Recently an international airport was inaugurated in Kushinagar district of Uttar Pradesh. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi did a inauguration of 3.2kms long airport, which would put the eastern part of UP under direct international connectivity.
Civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Sindhia said that from November 26, Kushinagar will have direct flights to Delhi four times a week followed by Mumbai and Kolkata which will also get direct flights to the city from December 18. Built at the cost of 260 crores, the airport’s maximum capacity is believed to be around 300 passengers every hour.
Diplomats from as many as 12 countries were present at the inauguration ceremony of the airport. These include Sri Lanka, Japan, Mongolia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Bhutan, Korea and Nepal. All of these countries has followers of Buddhism in good numbers.
The Importance of Kushinagar for Buddhism and its Followers
Kushinagar is where Gautam Buddha, founder of Buddhism and called as Lord Buddha as per Buddhist traditions attained ‘Mahaparinirvan’. The term is used for death/leaving the world for heaven/attaining nirvana. It is believed that Lord Buddha achieved Mahaparinirvan in 483BC.
Moreover, Kushinagar is a part of Buddhist circuit that covers various cities where significant incidents of Lord Buddha’s life happened. That involves Lumbini in Nepal where he was born, Bodhgaya in Bihar where he attained enlightenment, Sarnath in UP where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon and finally to Kushinagar where he died.
The other cities which are essential from Buddhist traditions include:
- It is located on the side of Rapti River in Uttar Pradesh. The city is said to be the place where Lord Buddha spent a period of four months. The area of Shravasthi is also a home to many old viharas and stupas aligned with the enlightened one.
- The city where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. It is located on the confluence of river Ganges and Gomathi near modern-day Varanasi/Benares in Uttar Pradesh.
- The first-ever Buddhist council was held in the city of Rajgir. It is believed in the Buddhist tradition that Lord Buddha gave many of his sermons during a stay that was as long as 12 years.
- Vaishali is the district where Lord Buddha gave his last sermon before attaining Mahaparinirvan in 483 BC. The second Buddhist council was organized in the city in 383 BC.
- Located in modern-day Bihar, Bodhgaya is a holy pilgrim site for Buddhists as it is the same place where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. Also the Mahabodhi temple tree is a UNESCO world heritage site.
The Rise and Fall of Buddhists in Modern-Day India
Post the death of Buddha in 483BC, Buddhism eventually spread in India and then gradually, across the world, especially in East Asia and South Asia. However, during the era of the Indian Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, Buddhism scaled new heights in the entire region.
Ashoka promoted the sermons and teachings of Buddhism not only in his empire as Dharma but in other kingdoms as well through Buddhist monks and ambassadors. He also helped in the construction of the Buddhist religious stupas and monasteries through state finances, which further enabled the expansion of Buddhism in countries like China, Tibet, Japan and Sri Lanka.
The Rise of Buddhism in India
The main reason for the spread of Buddhism in the Indian subcontinent was the state patronage it received through rulers like Ashoka, Ajatshatru and Kanishka. All the three rulers gave active support to Buddhist monks who spread the message of Lord Buddha throughout the subcontinent. Their ascetic life style further convinced the masses of their teachings and Buddhism spread rapidly.
Decline of Buddhism in India
There are various reasons for the demise of Buddhism in India. They are: Division into multiple groups ‘Hinayana’, ‘Vajrayana’, ‘Tantrayana’ and ‘Mahayana’. The division of Buddhism into various segments was in a stark contrast to the days of Buddha, where everyone would follow just teachings of Lord Buddha as one group.
- It led to regular disagreements between different Buddhist segments, which had a negative impact on its followers.
- The use of Sanskrit language which was a language of elites instead of Pali, the language of common people.
- Image worshipping of Lord Buddha.
- ‘Huna’ invasion led to the destruction of Buddhist monasteries and massacre of Buddhist monks. Hence, Buddhism almost got extinct in India, the place of its foundation. However, it continued to spread and grow in other regions of South-East Asia.